Imagine this! Your day is calm and quiet – a perfect time to rest and ease the stress. Suddenly, your Lab starts barking incessantly. The cause? Whether it’s a squirrel or their worst enemy, AKA the mail man,excessive barking can be incredibly annoying.
Dog researchers are currently studying the behavior of dogs living in the suburbs. They have discovered that the barks aren’t merely noise. There’s information in those barks. You can access the study, Field investigations of intraspecific acoustic communication in dogs (Canisfamiliaris) at Applied Animal Behaviour Science.
Pongrácz Péter from Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest led the team who attempted to decipher the acoustic communication between dogs in their natural environment. They tested bark playbacks with suburban dogs in their homes using a hidden sound system placed near the gate outside the property.
Each dog was exposed to pre-recorded barks of an unfamiliar dog and of a familiar dog that were recorded in two contexts:
- When the dog was left alone – “lonely barks”
- When it was barking at a stranger near the fence- “stranger barks”.
The researchers observed their reactions to the various barks. They noted whether the dogs came near the house or near the gate where the sound was coming from.
The team found dissimilarities in the dogs’ behavior depending on their familiarity with the dogs in the recording, as well as the context of the playback barks.
The pooches stayed at the gate nearest to the sound source the longest when they heard an unfamiliar dog make a “stranger bark”.
When the dogs heard the “lonely bar” of an unfamiliar dog, they stayed in the house.
The dogs also leaned more towards the house when they heard barking from a familiar dog.
All the test dogs barked the most when they heard “stranger barks” regardless of the familiarity of the barker.
The research suggests that dogs can distinguish the barkers and they can also extract information encoded within barks.
Image: OC Always/Flickr
Source: IFL Science